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Nutritional ecology of obesity: from humans to companion animals

By D. Raubenheimer, G. E. Machovsky-Capuska, A. K. Gosby, S. Simpson

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We apply nutritional geometry, a framework for modelling the interactive effects of nutrients on animals, to help understand the role of modern environments in the obesity pandemic. Evidence suggests that humans regulate the intake of protein energy (PE) more strongly than non-protein energy (nPE), and consequently will over- and under-ingest nPE on diets with low or high PE, respectively. This pattern of macronutrient regulation has led to the protein leverage hypothesis, which proposes that the rise in obesity has been caused partly by a shift towards diets with reduced PE:nPE ratios relative to the set point for protein regulation. We discuss potential causes of this mismatch, including environmentally induced reductions in the protein density of the human diet and factors that might increase the regulatory set point for protein and hence exacerbate protein leverage. Economics - the high price of protein compared with fats and carbohydrates - is one factor that might contribute to the reduction of dietary protein concentrations. The possibility that rising atmospheric CO 2 levels could also play a role through reducing the PE:nPE ratios in plants and animals in the human food chain is discussed. Factors that reduce protein efficiency, for example by increasing the use of ingested amino acids in energy metabolism (hepatic gluconeogenesis), are highlighted as potential drivers of increased set points for protein regulation. We recommend that a similar approach is taken to understand the rise of obesity in other species, and identify some key gaps in the understanding of nutrient regulation in companion animals.

Publication Title British Journal of Nutrition
Volume 113
Issue s1
Pages S26-S39
ISBN/ISSN 0007-1145
DOI 10.1017/s0007114514002323
Language English
Author Address The Charles Perkins Centre and School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Amino acids
  2. Animals
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Carbon dioxide
  5. Diets
  6. Ecology
  7. Economics
  8. Energy
  9. Fat
  10. Food science
  11. Humans
  12. Intake
  13. Malnutrition
  14. Mammals
  15. Men
  16. Metabolism
  17. models
  18. nutrients
  19. Nutrition
  20. obesity
  21. peer-reviewed
  22. Pets and companion animals
  23. physiology
  24. Plants
  25. Primates
  26. proteins
  27. ratios
  28. regulations
  29. therapeutics
  30. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed